First half blitz leads Bluejays past McPherson

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL

It’s probably an unsubstantiated rumor, but talk is that Tabor College offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dustin Miller will coordinate Ricky Ishida’s wedding while the quintet of Andy Curtis, Grant Myers, James Pizano, Bobby Hurd and Cody Dick will lead Ishida down the aisle at his wedding.

But what definitely is true is that on a splendid October Saturday afternoon, Ishida proposed marriage to Hailey Isaacs in front of a Tabor homecoming crowd before the game, then went out and orchestrated a 55-13 thrashing of a pretty decent McPherson College football team.

“Anytime you have a wedding proposal the day of the game, you have a little extra adrenaline,” coach Mike Gardner said. “Ricky played very, very well.”

Ishida was one of a large cast of Bluejays that had big days against the Bulldogs, who rolled into town riding a four-game winning streak. It didn’t take long to realize that streak was about to grind to a halt.

Starting their first possession at the 17-yard line, the Bluejays drove 83 yards in seven plays with Roger Butler cracking the end zone for the first of his four touchdowns on the day.

Only two minutes into the contest, Tabor led 7-0.

After a McPherson punt, Ishida and company started at the 14 yard line and carved their way through the porous Bulldog defense as Ishida hooked up with Layne Frick for 16 yards, Ben Brown for 22 yards and-believe it or not-tackle Andy Curtis for 18 yards on a tackle-eligible play.

Curtis rumbled all the way to the McPherson 4-yard line, where, one play later, Butler closed the deal with a touchdown to stake Tabor to a 14-0 lead with 9:51 left in the opening quarter.

The situation only worsened for McPherson on its next possession as quarterback sacks by Jake Schenk (13-yard loss) and Joe Fenske (11-yard loss) forced another Bulldog punt.

Punter Jacob Walden helped the Bluejay cause by shanking his kick and giving Tabor the ball only 32 yards from paydirt.

The result was predictable.

Tabor scored in eight plays when Ishida found John Garcia in the end zone for a five-yard strike to push the score to 21-0 with 3:39 left in the period.

Gardner said the early assault would be difficult for any team to overcome.

“I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of it,” Gardner said. “We did a really nice job of coming out and setting the tone and getting the offense started.”

The Bluejays resumed their assault in the second quarter. Beginning at its own 20-yard line, Tabor marched 80 yards in 10 plays and scored on a one-yard plunge by Ishida to bump the score to 28-0.

Lost in the shuffle of the explosive Tabor offense was the stingy Bluejay defense that continually thwarted every drive the Bulldogs launched.

“I thought our defense played OK,” said the perfectionist Gardner. “We didn’t give up a touchdown until late in the second half.”

When Tabor reacquired possession at its own 24-yard line after another Mac punt, a personal foul, an Ishida pass to Aaron Jenkins for 12 yards and to Brown for 38 yards, Tabor was just 13 yards from paydirt.

From there, Butler covered the necessary real estate for a 35-0 Bluejay advantage.

“Today was just another example of our offensive line taking over the game and I was really proud of them,” Gardner said.

Familiarity is key to the line’s success, said junior Grant Myers.

“This group of guys played together all of last season and some of us the season before, so it just makes it that much easier because we know what the guy next to us is thinking,” he said. “We’re confident in our running backs too.”

Try as they may, the Bulldogs couldn’t solve the Tabor defense and were forced to punt once again. This time Tabor took over on the Bluejay 17-yard line.

Three plays later, Jenkins got behind the Bulldog defenders and Ishida found him for a 76-yard touchdown.

A swan dive into the end zone by Jenkins resulted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Tabor missed the ensuing extra-point kick. But little else went wrong in the half as Tabor sauntered into the halftime locker room with a 41-0 lead.

Any thoughts McPherson may have had of a respectable second-half comeback quickly vanished when Andy Bartell picked off a Patrick Luz pass and returned it 25 yards to the Bulldog 5-yard line one minute into the second half.

From there, Butler crossed the goal line once again to put Tabor on top, 48-0.

After that, Gardner employed mostly reserves on both sides of the ball, but the quality of Tabor’s play was never compromised.

“Anytime you get the chance to play a lot of your kids it makes it worthwhile,” he said.

McPherson finally broke the shutout with a methodical 13-play, 68-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard plunge by Freddie Nails heading into the fourth quarter.

But Tabor answered immediately when quarterback Ben Schmidt engineered a 10-play, 80-yard drive and capped it with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Owens for a 55-7 lead with 11:44 to play.

McPherson managed one more meaningless score with 10 seconds left in the game to account for the final 55-13 margin.

“I’m kind of greedy in that I want all the kids to play, but still not let the other team score,” Gardner said. “But they all played hard and gave good effort and I can’t fault them for that. I’m proud of all of them.”

Tabor’s offense, which entered the game as the No. 3 unit in the nation, finished with 584 yards total offense, which is a single-game school record. The previous record was 541 set in 2001. Tabor’s 398 passing yards broke the 2001 school record of 389.

Butler carried the ball 17 times for 111 yards and four scores while Ishida connected on 16 of 22 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Ishida’s performance give him a school-record 39 touchdown passes in his career.

Butler’s four touchdowns broke Tabor’s single-season scoring record with 110 points. The previous mark of 86 was shared by Tyson Ratzlaff and Bay Lawrence.

The Bluejays, who came in as the third most penalized team in the nation (119.8 per game), racked up 111 yards on 11 infractions.

The often-overlooked Bluejay defense held McPherson to 260 yards of offense, with 151 of it coming in the second half.

Tabor’s defense came in ranked fifth in the nation at 238.8 yards per contest.

Robert Haude led the defense with eight tackles. Jake Schenk added seven and Tyler McKim six.

With the win, Tabor improved to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference action while McPherson fell to 4-2 overall and 3-2 in KCAC play.

Coming- Tabor travels to Winfield next week for the third consecutive season to face a struggling Southwestern team who enters the game at 1-4 inthe KCAC.

A Tabor victory would be its third straight over Southwestern after breaking a 22-game losing streak two years ago.

Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.

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